• Stephanie Maher

The Forgotten History of Santa Catalina, CA.

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

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We are compelled to share with you the history of the Torqua Cave because we believe that sharing knowledge of this important ancient site, will ultimately help preserve and protect it.



The attractiveness of the island is not the only reason why we returned. We returned because of the archaeological site known as the “Torqua Cave.” Among the many archaeological sites on the island, the “Torqua Cave” is arguably the most significant and sensitive archaeological site on Santa Catalina Island because this site contains intricate pictographs created by the Pimu’gnans, the Native Americans that once occupied Catalina. An article entitled “Spanish Gold lures Them,” published by the LA Times in 1911, describes the “Torqua Cave” as a place where a man named John Ryan, a direct descendent of Sir Francis Drake and Andrew Bolton (an anonymous name meant to conceal a famous Los Angeles man) had found Spanish treasure of the 16th century inside the Torqua Cave by following a “Spanish Chart”. This treasure that they found was a decoy and only part of a vast amount of treasure of two Spanish Galleons, that had been buried nearby the Torqua Cave to prevent the pursuits of Sir Francis Drake.


I discovered that Andrew Bolton is in fact Dr. Charles Fredrick Holder. In his books, Charles describes how he had found many “articles of the chase[1]” inside the Torqua Cave. His books legitimize the article “Spanish Gold Lures Them.” I have thought about the possibility of the article Spanish Gold Lures Them to be a fake, but it does not seem that way. There are too many details involved and Charles Holder was considered a very intelligent and honest man.


Stephanie and Chad: Our story…


We both studied Anthropology and Archaeology and share knowledge of archaeological discoveries and amazing places to scuba dive. We lived on Santa Catalina for an entire year scuba diving and immersing ourselves in the culture of Avalon. Our next adventure is to Bonaire, the mecca of scuba diving, in 2021.


The “Torqua Cave” is in fact a rock shelter, even though it has been labeled a “cave,” by archaeologists because Charles Holder was the first to document the rock shelter as a “cave house” in his short book describing Santa Catalina, which is entitled An Isle of Summer,” that he had published in 1901. Charles Holder mentions the rock shelter in other books he wrote about Santa Catalina, including his fictional book entitled “The Adventures of Torqua” published in 1902 and in The Channel Islands” published in 1910.


The Pimu’gnans are considered part of the Tongva. The living descendants of the Tongva, who are known as the Gabrielino/Tongva, and they consider the “Torqua Cave” their cultural heritage that connects them to the island as a “place of power” because oral history handed down by the Gabrielino/Tongva community speak of it as a shaman’s cave[2].


We are compelled to share with you the secret of the Torqua Cave because we believe that sharing knowledge of this important ancient site, will ultimately help preserve and protect it. The Catalina Island Conservancy protects all archaeological sites on the islands. The archaeological sites contribute to the uniqueness and beauty of the island and the culture of the community of Avalon and the Gabrielino/Tongva.


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Up Next: Spanish Gold Lures Them: The Mysterious Article of the Torqua Cave


To go to Previous Blog: The Bay of Seven Moons of Santa Catalina Island


To go to main page: The Secret of the Torqua Cave

[1] Holder, Charles F., The Channel Islands, 1910, p. 117. [2] McClintock, Thomas, Documentation and Technical Study of Torqua Cave (escholarship.org) 2016 (Hudson 1979, Alvitre 2015)

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